Every day, millions of products are moved from manufacturers to store shelves across America. As a consumer, have you ever thought about how your favorite item got to your favorite store and who helps ensure that it was safe for you to buy? Working behind the scenes at every retail company is a team of product safety professionals who work diligently to ensure that the products they sell meet the safety standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
RILA maintains a committee of these retail executives from our member companies, which gathers each year for benchmarking, networking, and peer-to-peer discussions around leading issues in the field.
We recently sat down with RILA's Deputy General Counsel Kathleen McGuigan who manages RILA's Consumer Product Committee to learn more about this community, the role of retailers in consumer product safety, and the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry in this arena.
Q. Tell us a little about your role at RILA.
KM: As RILA's Deputy General Counsel, I manage several member committees, including RILA's Consumer Product Committee made up of leading product safety executives and legal counsel from our member companies.
The Consumer Product Committee is one of RILA's largest groups with 180-200 members from our retail companies. Members participate in monthly committee calls and biannual in-person meetings. The committee focuses heavily on product safety and regulatory compliance, and our calls and meetings typically include an educational component related to these areas. In the past, we've had guest speakers from a variety of federal agencies, including the CPSC, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy, and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as state regulatory agencies.
Q. What are some of the topline goals and/or challenges for retail product safety executives?
KM: When it comes to consumer product safety, retailers want reasonable, risk-based and effective safety regulations that are based on sound science and valid data. RILA is encouraging the CPSC to enhance their data analytics and data collection capabilities, and invest in new IT resources and tools. By doing so, the agency can be more proactive in identifying and addressing safety risks associated with defective products.
RILA and our member companies are also encouraging the CPSC to enhance outreach to all stakeholders for input throughout their decision-making processes to ensure new regulations and programs are most effective and least burdensome on industry. By developing a culture of collaboration, the CPSC can work with stakeholders to tackle difficult issues such as improving recall effectiveness.
In addition, with new products and technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) emerging every day, there is an increased need for coordination and collaboration between the CPSC and peer agencies to take a comprehensive risk-based approach to assessing and mitigating cybersecurity, privacy, and product safety risks for IoT products.
Q. What is RILA's role in helping accomplish these objectives?
KM: RILA's job is to is to be the voice of retail before Congress and federal agencies on these issues. We spend a great deal of time educating legislators and regulators on retail global supply chains and complex retail operations so that new legislation and regulation will not unduly burden retailers.
We play a large role in educating members on the latest product safety regulations because we know that for retailers, their relationship with the consumer is critical. In today's hyper-competitive retail environment, if you lose a consumer's confidence, you've lost that customer. So, we put a lot of effort into making sure retailers have the information they need to comply with latest product standards.
In addition, we also work collaboratively with the CPSC and other agencies on consumer product safety education campaigns.
Q. The retail industry at large as seen tremendous change over the last several years. What has been the biggest change in the consumer product safety space and what are biggest challenges associated with that?
KM: The speed at which new technology and consumer products go from initial idea to finished products on store shelves has increased exponentially. For the CPSC as the agency responsible for setting the safety standards on these products, managing that condensed timeframe will be a challenge. In addition, the CPSC will need to understand new technology and adapt risk analysis techniques for the associated products. With 3D printing, for example, the CPSC will have a challenge trying to ensure the safety of the vast number of products consumers can conceivably make at home.
Additionally, the retail marketplace continues to expand to include more online retailers. RILA members dedicate significant resources and have sophisticated compliance programs. The same is not always true for smaller or foreign online retailers who may not be aware of US product safety requirements. The CPSC will be challenged to identify and educate these retailers so that all products sold to US customers are safe regardless of the size or location of the seller
Q. Are there any recent or future notable events coming up for this group?
KM: This week, the CPSC conducted a workshop with stakeholders to discuss ways to better communicate recalls to the public and increase recall effectiveness. In addition, the CPSC held a public hearing on the agency's priorities for FY 2018. Several member companies sent representatives to attend both events, and I testifyied at the hearing on retailers' product safety priorities. Our written comments submitted prior to the hearing can be found here.
RILA will also be holding a meeting of the Consumer Product Committee in DC in the fall. The date of that meeting will be announced shortly.
For more information on RILA's community of product safety executives or to learn more about the group's initiatives, please contact Kathleen McGuigan at Kathleen.firstname.lastname@example.org.